hungry ghost

After discussing The Doctor’s Opinion in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, my guide, Santos had asked me to learn everything I could about alcohol and addiction.  The next time we met up, he’d come to know I’m not only the king of pain, but the king of Wikipedia as well.  His assignment sent me down a rabbit hole I wouldn’t come out of for the next five days.  When I got to the bottom of one article, the See Also links would transport me to the next. 

All hungry ghosts are addicts, but not all addicts are hungry ghosts.  It depends on at what point in their development the addiction kicks in, or the severity of it.  A hungry ghost suffers from such extreme addiction that they’ve either lost their humanity to it, or never become fully human in the first place.

My greatest compulsion has always been to escape, by any means necessary.  I have managed to do that for most of my life, either physically or chemically, preferably both at the same time.

It’s small wonder I became a hungry ghost.  After a lonely, transient childhood, suffocated by my role as the son of a confrontational pastor, the first time I got a whiff of freedom, I seized it with both hands, like a cartoon villain taking the wheel of an intergalactic destroyer.  I would never again let anyone have any control over my destiny.  Because of that I’d moved from place to place, and relationship to relationship, only giving enough to get what I needed from them at the time, but unable to truly commit to anyone or anything beyond my wildest dreams and desires.  My hopes for future happiness only resided in fantasy scenarios

I may have appeared human from time to time, but I never did the things most humans do.  I never got married.  I never had kids.  I never settled into a career.  I never lived in a house.  I never sat down to eat at a table.  I didn’t have a sense of place.  I didn’t swear allegiance to anything.  I didn’t make promises. Instead, I floated from situation to situation, location to location.  I would appear for a while, and just as happily disappear.  If I was stuck in one place for any length of time, I’d escape by changing my mind and my mood with alcohol, or any other drugs that were available.  If I was lucky enough to be on the road, or off in a foreign country, I’d do the same.

An addiction is a persistent use of either a drug or a behavior even when the effects of doing so are harmful to the self and others.

By coming and going as often as I had, I’d destroyed any chance for a stable, successful life, a thousand times over.  I’d fantasized about a gypsy existence and I’d gotten one, without a home, financial security, a job, a family of my own, friends, a community, a plan for the future, or any kind of a shared purpose.  When COVID happened, I wasn’t happy about coming back to my Mom’s backyard, but I had nowhere else to go.  I was broke and homeless. 

Would my great, imagined breakthrough, the one where the world finally discovers all my beautiful songs and starts handing me envelopes stuffed with money, come riding up and save me in the eleventh hour?  The chance of that ever happening had passed a long time ago.  The reality I’d been running from for so long had become even grimmer in my absence.

And what about the alcohol?  It had once made me happy, brave, a wild, romancing Romeo, hadn’t it?   Probably something between that and a drunken, reckless, fool, but even if it had, that hadn’t been the case for years.  I drank mostly alone, to calm my nerves, or try to lift myself out of grave depressions.  I drank anytime it crossed my mind, often up at four in the morning, waiting for the liquor store to open at six.  I drank even though I was unemployed.  I drank until the money was gone.  I drank until my health was destroyed, my central nervous system frazzled and shot, my brain foggy and confused, my limbs riddled with gout.

With consequences like that, you wonder why any sane person would continue to drink.  The more research I did, the more I discovered that a sane person wouldn’t, and I was hardly alone.

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